Westonbirt pupil overcomes the odds to achieve GCSEs
Westonbirt School pupil Tom Dangerfield received his GCSE results today, following the challenges of suffering a complicated brain injury just before the exam period commenced.
Tom sustained a head injury and subsequent complication during a rugby match in April. Initially his condition went undetected, but he was later rushed to The Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital where a subarachnoid cyst was diagnosed. He then underwent four neurological surgeries in attempts to drain excess fluid from his brain, culminating in the fitting of a permanent shunt. His first surgery took place on 13th April and the last on 25th May, also the date of his brother Luc’s 18th birthday and just a few days before he took a GCSE Maths paper.
This was a life-changing event, not only for Tom, but for his twin sister Taya, also a pupil at Westonbirt and who has received her GCSE results today. Their mother, Natasha Dangerfield, is Headmistress at the school and faced an anxious and challenging time.
“This was an incredibly difficult time for the family. Without the support from everyone at Westonbirt School, I know that we would not have been able to get through it as well as we did. It was truly inspiring to feel the community band together around us and my thanks remain with them. Having Tom’s twin, Taya, also sitting her GCSE exams was like splitting myself in two. On the one hand I was telling my son that his health was the priority and whatever he could achieve in exams was enough, but simultaneously I was encouraging Taya to focus on her nine GCSEs. Not only creating a conflicting message in the house, but an educational conundrum as a Head.
I am grateful to everyone who supported us and we are delighted to mark an end to this period, as Tom and Taya receive their results today alongside their peer group.”
During this difficult time, Tom received an enormous amount of affection and support from fellow students and Westonbirt staff. Head of Year 11 Sarah-Jane Rhead and Natasha’s PA Amy Mitford became known as the “Westonbirt Elves” for their home-made presents and bakes. Tom was also motivated by visits from some key staff who run the Combined Cadet Force and Duke of Edinburgh Award programmes at school.
Massive support and morale-boosts particularly came from the rugby and sporting community, as rugby was a key sport for Tom. Personal videos wishing him well came streaming in from players such Mike Tindall, Lawrence Dallaglio and Tom Carr Smith from Bath Rugby. Even some of the Kenyan world cup rugby players got involved. Tom also received a personalised signed shirt from Harry Kane and an England Rugby shirt, signed by the whole team and hand delivered by one of his PE teachers, Lucas Slovik.
Despite the odds being stacked against him, Tom managed to undertake enough assessments and papers to achieve five GCSEs in Business, English Language, English Literature, Maths and Physical Education; a fantastic achievement considering his traumatic experience.
Tom Dangerfield says:
” I was disappointed that I couldn’t get grades for my other subjects as I’d worked really hard for my mocks, but I am really happy with what I have got. The support I’ve received has been amazing – everyone around me has supported me as much as they can and tried their hardest for me.”
Poignantly, today, the day that Tom receives his GCSE results, is also his final visit to the RNCH where his care could not have been better, says his mum. Whilst he will not be able to play rugby again, his resilience shines through and he remains positive; looking forward to what the future has in store.